The playoff hopes and the season series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Chicago drops this one 7-4 to the Lightning to close the season with a 1-6-1 record against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. With the win, Tampa Bay clinches the second playoff spot in the Central Division.
FINAL: Lightning 7, #Blackhawks 4
Shot attempts: 60-46 CHI
Shots on goal: 40-30 CHI
5-on-5 scoring chances: 24-16 TB
5-on-5 high danger chances: 13-9 TB pic.twitter.com/z8cvuLZzxz
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) April 28, 2021
It feels so good knowing that the Blackhawks won’t have to deal with the Lightning for eight games in a season ever again. It’ll feel the same way later this week when the Blackhawks end their season series with the Florida Panthers and it’ll feel that way when the close the book on the Carolina Hurricanes, too.
Hopefully closing those series’ won’t be as painful and as physically costly as tonight was for Chicago. The Blackhawks were beaten down from the opening drop of the puck to the final horn. Nikita Zadorov and Connor Murphy both lost fights, Kevin Lankinen was pulled for the second time this month, and Adam Boqvist took a hit that looked VERY SIMILAR to the hit Kirby Dach took at the World Junior Championships that ended up breaking his wrist and requiring surgery. After the game, head coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed that was the case and that Boqvist’s season is over.
Mike Hardman made his NHL debut for the Blackhawks, which was really cool and made him the eighth player this season to make his NHL debut with the Blackhawks, and also took a high hit that made him wince and grab his head a few times on the bench. Also getting a rough ride tonight was Dominik Kubalík, who took a high elbow to the face in the first period from Luke Schenn. The Blackhawks began the night wearing Black and White, but they left the ice looking more like Black and Blue.
The game tonight was just a reminder that the space between the Blackhawks and the Cup-contending teams in the NHL is less of a gap and more like a chasm.
BUT! At the same time, with a shortened bench and the slimmest of mathematical playoff chances, the Blackhawks fought tooth-and-nail with the Lightning until the final horn.
We started the year by saying this Blackhawks team had a long way to go, and that they were going to need to take baby steps. They have truly come a long way. They have taken every step to perform above the standards expected of them this season. There are still problems to fix and holes to fill in the system, but the Blackhawks are a much different team than they were in Game One against Tampa Bay this season.
Find the full box score here.